The Chiraroscuro label has mined a lot of gold from the sea: the superb music made at the Floating Jazz Festivals on the S.S. Norway and Queen Elizabeth II over the years. Recorded live and lovingly, these CDs feature top musicians playing under-relaxed vacation conditions, and this one, recorded on the Queen in the fall of 2000, is another gleaming gem: the first to feature legendary bop altoist Phil Woods as leader. He's joined by the sparkling Bill Charlap Trio and consummate trumpeter Roy Hargrove (on two tracks) for a long, swinging, straight-ahead set, full of feeling and mutual inspiration. Woods is smooth, strong, and absolutely assured; he's so expressive, he's nearly verbal. He's already recorded three albums with the gifted and lyrical Charlap, and their mutual ease and admiration are audible. The material is consistently interesting, including the burning opener "Beautiful Friendship," the churning title track, the nearly 14-minute pageant of cool creativity on "Hey There," and a pair of beautiful Alec Wilder tunes: "I'll Be Around" and "Trouble Is a Man," featuring an exquisite solo by Charlap. Roy Hargrove takes the soulful lead on a luscious "These Foolish Things," with Woods supplying rueful commentary behind him; on "Philly's Twist the two rock the boat with their swinging, wailing trades. Bassist Peter Washington is particularly thoughtful on the closer, "I'll See You Again," done as a tender waltz, and drummer Willie Jones III is exactly right throughout. An ideal showcase for Woods' undiminished soul, technical fluency, and wit, this CD is highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Judith Schlesinger